If asked to define "Australian food" most Aussies would say meat pie, lamingtons and a BBQ (cook out). However, the Australian culinary journey started many years before rolling vanilla sponge in chocolate icing and coating it in coconut (lamington) was noted as an Australian icon.
Native or indigenous Australian food "bush tucker" in the last 10-15 years has become more prevalent in restaurant cooking, supermarket shelves and suppliers across the country. Aussie bush tucker comes in a variety of forms such as nuts, seeds, fruit, herbs and spices, meats and vegetables. Many of the items are still only used by the Native Australians, Aborigines. All hunting and gathering, food preparation and cooking of these foods we have learned from them.
As Australia has a wide ranging climate from alpine to tropical, many of the foods are not commercially viable and tend to be expensive and difficult to farm. Items such as kangaroo, barramundi, Tasmanian salmon, macadamia nuts, wattle seed and King Island cream are widespread; however, items such as witjuti grubs, Yolla (a bird) and billy goat plums, apart from being rare and expensive, are an eating experience in themselves.
Having worked in a restaurant for my apprenticeship that had "modern Australian food," I have worked with a few different types of native foods. I'll list a few.
Macadamia nuts (kindal kindal): the world's hardest nut to crack and considered the best eating. They can be eaten raw, salted, dry roasted or roasted with coconut or macadamia oil. A round, pale nut with a green or brown shell depending on time of harvest. Can be used in sweet or savoury cooking and has a distinct flavour which could be compared to the taste of a Brazilian nut and an almond. However, many say it is a nut that stands alone!!
Kangaroo: has a strong gamey flavour. Its meat is lean and highly nutritious. The meat improves noticeably in taste and tenderness with age. Should not be frozen due to its high water content. Prior to cooking, kangaroo meat should be steeped in oil as it will not sear well without it. 17 cuts are offered from one animal. The legs have the strongest flavour and because of their sheer size, tend to be roasted whole. The tail is generally used for a flavoursome soup with finely cut vegetables. The prime cut of the kangaroo is the striploin and for optimum results, it should be cooked for a short time only and in a very hot skillet (rare to medium rare).
Wattle seed (Acacia victoriae): is a seed that is ground down and can be likened to the taste of coffee. Collecting the seed and processing it is a time-consuming and tedious affair and is general collected by skilled women of the outback communities. Wattle seed is highly beneficial nutritionally. Maximum flavour is brought out when cooked with water. By making a paste ahead of time, it can be kept in the freezer or fridge without losing any of its flavour. It can be used in breads and goes well with dairy products i.e. - wattle seed ice-cream.
Most if not all "bush tucker" requires some inside knowledge on how to get it to a usable product. However, from that point on, most of them can be treated in the same way as we would most ingredients. Make sure that you take into account that the majority seem to be a smaller product but with a stronger flavour and just a tad more expensive.
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